NAPANEE – After losing a playoff run and a full season to COVID-19, the defending Schmalz Cup champions will resume their title defence Friday when the Amherstview Jets visit at 7:30 p.m.
Coach Ben Hagerman’s team has just five players remaining from the 2019-2020 season, but the organization is optimistic that it recruited well and put the pieces together to ice a deep roster in the upcoming 35-game season.
Two veteran goaltenders anchor the club defensively with Bailey Maracle (Deseronto) and Mitch Bown (Woodstock, N.B.) both in the fold. On the blue line, co-captain Noah Westwater (Oakville) will be expected to lead a talented group with a number of fresh faces. Payton Gauthier (Kingston) who spent part of a season with Gananoque is the only other defender to have been a PJHL regular and he, too, will be counted on heavily. Hometown favourite Connor Brooks (Napanee) will contribute in all situations after having played modified games with the club last year, while the Raiders also have high hopes for newcomers AJ Hess (Toronto) – acquired in a trade with the Brockville Tikis, Blake Ellis (Stirling), Rheydan McCoy (Belleville), and Ethan Williams (Toronto).
Up front, co-captain Soren Zamuner (Oakville) and veteran snipers Logan White (Napanee) and Matt Poole (Consecon) return, while the club added some Junior B experience in the likes of Cameron Krupa (London) and Maverick Labrie (Russell) who had skated with the London Nationals and Embrun Panthers respectfully. Local products Ben White (Napanee), Beckett Palmer-Stephen (Kingston), Isaac Brown (Marlbank), and Reid Lambert (Napanee) should also be able to step into the league and produce immediately. The Raiders also have high hopes for the line of Toronto products Chris Edwards, Matt Sheehy – whose brother Cam played on Napanee’s 2019 Schmalz Cup championship team, and Johnny Wright as they showed outstanding chemistry in the preseason. Two-way forward Ben Carter (New Lowell) also recently joined the team following a trade from Brockville and has shown well.
In preseason action, the Raiders went 3-0. In an opener that featured mostly rookies Aug. 29, the Raiders downed Picton 6-4 in Wellington. Sheehy, with two, McCoy, Colby Leaver, Ethan Broek, and Cole Campbell handled the scoring. Logan Vale was in goal. On Sept. 17 in Napanee, the Raiders blanked Campbellford 4-0. Lambert excited the crowd with a pair of goals, while Sheehy and McCoy added singles. Maracle was solid in the shutout. Finally, Marshall McFarland tallied twice in a 2-1 overtime win over Picton in Napanee Sept. 24. Mitch Bown was in goal.
Friday’s renewal of the battle of Lennox and Addington should be a good match as the Jets also have a strong veteran-laden team. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. for a 7:30 start. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and $5 for children under 12. All spectators over the age of 12 must show proof of full vaccination or proof of a recognized medical exemption. There will be no canteen services and spectators are asked to keep their mask on unless eating or drinking and distance physically from others outside their own household.
At Friday’s game, fans can purchase season tickets ($150 for adults or $125 for students/seniors for 17 home games) or flex passes, which offer 11 admissions for the price of 10. The flex passes can be transferred.